Auburn at Benjamin Russell Basketball

Cliff Williams / The Outlook Benjamin Russell coach Latreisha Moon speaks to her team during a timeout against Auburn Dec. 12, 2020.

Forget dressing to impress, pressing to oppress opposing offenses is the plan this season for Benjamin Russell girls basketball.

Coming off a disheartening 1-8 record in the 2020-21 season, the Wildcats are hopeful that their fresh, high-paced approach to the game will generate more turnovers on defense and fast-break buckets on offense.

“This year’s team will be a whole lot different from any other I’ve ever coached here at Benjamin Russell, because we’re gonna run,” Benjamin Russell girls basketball coach Latreisha Moon said. “I’ve got the girls to do it this year. We can press a little bit, we can get up and down the floor a little more. I feel really confident in this team.”

Making the ball meet the net proved difficult at times for the Wildcats last year.

They scored less than 30 points in four of their nine games with less than 20 points twice. That lack of production drove Moon to embrace a faster pace and high-pressure defense.

To get there, she needed her team to be in excellent shape. The depth she plans to utilize will help as well.

“We’ve been conditioning since the summer, so we should be fine on the conditioning part,” Moon said. “Throughout summer workouts, we had summer workouts, we ran a lot then and there. We should be fine on the running part, and I have 12 girls that I plan on playing this year, 10 girls returning from last year.”

There’s always a give-and-take when basketball teams play the press as Benjamin Russell plans to do at times this year. While trapping opponents in the open floor and getting into the face of ball handlers can create quick stops and easy baskets in transition, it leaves a defense vulnerable to incisive passes, especially if it isn’t played properly.

Still, the higher pace it creates is something Moon and the team are fully bought into.

“It’s what everybody’s doing to us,” Moon said. “Everybody’s playing fast, playing fast. So we decided this year we just want to play fast and that's what we're trying to instill.”

One player who will help ensure proper execution is senior guard JaNiya Martin. Nicknamed “Coach JAM” by teammates on both the volleyball and basketball courts, Martin’s knowledge of the game gives a huge boost to the squad around her.

“I told my assistant coach, who is also my brother, ‘They call her Coach JAM and she’s gonna be our coach out there on that floor,’” Moon said. “She picks up on everything so fast. She’s a leader.”

There’s experienced talent around her to help with production.

Junior center Tamya Harris stands 5-foot-10 with stupendous leaping ability to boot, Moon’s face lit up when discussing her potential.

“That’s my surprise player,” Moon said. “This girl is running the floor, she’s rebounding, she’s scoring points. Her light has really come on. I’m really impressed with her.”

Forward Tylicia Calhoun, nicknamed “Bae,” and guard Taniya Davis, nicknamed “NiNi,” should be impact players as well, Moon added. Eighth grader Ami Edwards will see plenty of action too.

The Benjamin Russell girls basketball team opens its season at Auburn Tuesday.

“I just want people to come out and watch us play, give us a chance,” Moon said.

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